From Russia with Love (1963)
What "Dr. No" lacked with its villains "From Russia with Love" more than makes up for with more villains that you could shake a stick at—or as Sean Connery says it: shake a shtick. Whether or not he's roughing up a comedic act (oh so punny!), Bond returns with many enemies in the second movie based off Ian Fleming's books.
This time, the evil organization known as SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), first introduced in "Dr. No", is out to get James Bond. They don't exclusively want Bond dead, they also want an encryption device and they hatch a master plan to get it.
Number One, the evil mastermind whose face never appears in the film, replaced instead by his cat (our thoughts go to "The Godfather"...could it be that this inspired one of the most iconic scenes from one of the most iconic movies of all time? Who knows?) has his minions carrying out the plan for him. SPECTRE will use a flawless Russian agent, who doesn't know that she's being manipulated by the underground villainous group to seduce Bond and together they will sneak the encryption device out of the country. When the time seems right, they will take the coding machine, kill Bond, and no one will be the wiser. They look down on the British for being of lesser intelligence and higher morals (pshaw to that!).
So the plan starts in motion. Number Three, a defect from the Russian intelligence to SPECTRE, is using her authority with Russia to pull the strings that need to be pulled. She coerces Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to pretend to be madly in love with James Bond, simply by seeing his picture. Tatiana contacts MI6 and informs them of the coding machine, telling them that she will help them get their hands on it if she can defect, escorted back to England by non other than the elusive, gentlemen spy James Bond.
Bwah bwah! (Those are jazzy brass noises for those interested)
Bond hears of Tatiana's request and he says what everyone has been saying: it's a trap! Yes, it's a trap, everyone knows that it's a trap; but this trap could prove quite fruitful, so they send him to Istanbul anyway...but they don't know that it's a (wait for it) trap trap.
Once there, mimicking the scene from "Dr. No", a car follows 007 from the airport, but don't worry it's not the bad bad guys, it's just the bad guys.
SPECTRE hasn't been idle in this time, on SPECTRE Island (yes, that's what they call it...somewhat egotistical, don't you think?) this group has been training men and women to be mercenaries. They shoot at targets, blow stuff up, you know—the usual.
But one of their pupils stands far above the rest of the group, a blond man who remains silent for most of the movie (played very well by the incredible Robert Shaw). This guy is a lunatic. A prison escapee, he is one Rorschach test from being a full-fledged killing machine. But SPECTRE isn't worried about his mental stability, they just rub their hands together manically and praise themselves for finding such a rare bird.
The time period of the first two Bond movies is crucial to keep in mind. The first movie almost had nuclear disaster, this movie is about strained foreign relations with Russia...sound familiar? One character ever says something along the lines of "the Cold War is about to warm up"...ooh, we're winning subtle points here. Number Three is evil and her wickedness is exemplified by her sexual orientation...because lesbians all want to destroy the world. True that's looking a little too deep into the movie, but hey, I do that occasionally.
Women are again objectified which isn't surprising and somewhat laughable at times. Bond attends a gypsy event and at this affair two women both proclaim their love for one man. After a sexual belly dance number (which the opening credits are based off of) the two women fight for their right to the man. They strip down to swim suits and cat fight it out...if anything it makes it seem like Russ Meyer randomly took over writing the script. It's unnecessary and completely gratuitous...did you expect something else? Bond doesn't like to see them fighting so he's told he gets to decide what happens to them. Fade outs imply a lot and in this case it's a ménage à trois.
It takes half of the movie before it starts to pick up steam; but it's smooth sailing from there on out. Bond boards a train and the movie takes a Hitchcockian turn—it's a lot of fun.
"From Russia with Love" was directed by Terence Young again and a few more idiosyncrasies of the series start to appear: the most glaring ones being the use of gadgets and the full introduction of the Q branch.
On every level, it's equal with the first movie. It has more odd moments, but better action.
Posted by Micah Jones